St. Petersburg, Russia
In 1871, a very elegant bathhouse was opened on Fonarny Pereulok in St. Petersburg.
Called the Voroninskiye Bani for the merchant who owned the building, Mikhail Voronin—or Fonarskiye Bani or just plain Fonari for the street it was on—in the Soviet period it became simply Bathhouse #43, with much of its elegance stripped away.
The bathhouse was closed in 2006 for a three-year reconstruction project, but it took 15 years to bring it back to its former Czarist glory with a few new 21st-Century bells and whistles added.
The project was headed by Yuna Megre of the interior design bureau Megre Interiors with guidance from Artyom Shakhnazarov and the renowned architect Rafael Dayanov who sadly did not live to see the reopening in April.
Megre and architects collected the remnants they found in the dilapidated bathhouse including stucco, decor, brackets, rods, cornices together with the restoration architect Rafael Dayanov.
Dayanov’s idea was to reconstruct some areas of the structure and return them to an image close to the historical one.
For most of the renovation, this was not possible or practical so the designers had a difficult task to rethink the historic building in the context of modernity.
In the final design, Megre chose the direction of historical purism preserving elements of the original interior architecture, but added some of today’s contemporary comfort.
The bath has been restored according to historical sketches and the entrance area was created to resemble a similar style and mood.
The furnaces — after the renovation of the 1930s — were preserved during the reconstruction.
The designers recreated the interior of this space using an exact replica of the tiles that were found in the building 150 years ago including a fragment that was discovered during the dismantling of an old wooden cash register, which had been buried there since the Soviet 1930s.
They restored the area of the boutique of bath products at the main entrance.
The second floor contains the main lobby, with its fireplace and period sofas, a cafe-pub with cast iron tables restored, from found engravings and marble walls, changing rooms, a salon, and a barber’s office.
Located a floor below, there are economy and individual rooms and an elegant restaurant above.
The romantic enveloping interior is filled with elements inspired by the surviving engravings of this space, including a large-scale carved fireplace and a central column, which was added to create a comfort that is not inherent in changing rooms and typical bathhouses.
On the second floor in the men’s changing room, a tiled fireplace and a bronze macaron with a triton’s head were restored.
Soap zones of both locker rooms are united by a single aesthetic solution.
Downstairs in the economy room, the designers have kept this principle, while changing the appearance of the space through the use of other matched materials.
The individual areas exude comfort and richness with their recreation areas, refectory, and bathing places.
Visiting the bath reminds visitors they are in public baths and not in a private merchant’s house.
Project: Fonarnye Bani
Architects: Megre Interiors and Rafael Dayanov
Client: Fonarnye Bani
Photographers: Courtesy of Megre Interiors